By Mike LaBella
---- — HAVERHILL — Sunday’s rain delayed the start of reverse angle parking on Bailey Boulevard.
The weather was more cooperative yesterday, and, with the lines now painted, the first drivers were expected to try out the new parking system this morning on the north side of the boulevard.
The city converted most of Bailey Boulevard’s northern side from parallel parking spaces to the new system, where a driver must back into a nine-foot-wide space at a 60-degree angle to the roadway. Mayor James Fiorentini said the new system boosts the number of parking spaces there from 60 to 83. According to the city’s parking consultant, it will be a safer way to park.
One city councilor fears the plan may backfire and that some drivers may be uncomfortable backing into a space with vehicles on either side, resulting in sideswipes as well as accidents when drivers pull out.
Vehicles were not allowed to turn onto Bailey Boulevard from Main Street yesterday while line painting was taking place and so the paint could dry. The south side of the boulevard was open to traffic.
Drivers who may not understand the new parking method can ask a “parking ambassador” the city planned to station on Bailey Boulevard this week. Signs are being posted showing drivers how to park. Brochures on reverse angle parking are being distributed.
The brochures say it’s easy, and that all you have to do is signal, stop, and then back into the space. But Councilor William Macek said it may not be as easy as some think.
“I think we face the risk of having a lot of side-swipe accidents,” he said last week. “This is one tweak to the paid parking plan that I don’t think is going to work out well.”
Bailey Boulevard, just north of downtown, has been packed with cars daily for the last two months, since the city adopted a plan which requires drivers to pay to park in most downtown spaces. Parking is free on spaces on the boulevard. The angle parking adds 23 free spaces, compared to the number of spaces available when the boulevard had traditional curbside parking.
As of yesterday, digital display screens that were recently placed on Bailey Boulevard continued to inform drivers that the new diagonal parking plan would go into effect Oct. 1. Public Works Director Michael Stankovich said last week that he hoped line painting would take place on Sunday, but was worried that it might be delayed by the rain that was forecast for the weekend. The rain resulted in postponing the painting until yesterday.
Stankovich said the new parking method, the first of its kind in the area, isn’t much different from the current parallel parking method, which requires you to swing the front of your vehicle into the roadway before settling into a spot.
“It’s really almost the same angle as parallel parking,” Stankovich said. “The big difference is when you pull out you’ll have a clear view of the road.”
Stankovich said “reverse angle” is considered a safer way to diagonal park by traffic experts. Each diagonal space along Bailey Boulevard is a generous nine feet wide, Stankovich said, or about a foot or so wider than spaces in many parking lots. He said this wider spacing should allow drivers in large vehicles ample room to maneuver.
The addition of 23 new spaces to the existing 60 spaces along the north side of Bailey Boulevard comes as a result of the city’s new paid parking program that went into effect Aug. 1. Mayor James Fiorentini has been urging commuters and those who work downtown not to park in the heart of the business district and instead park on outlying roadways such as Bailey Boulevard, where parking is free. So many drivers took his advice that on most days every space along Bailey Boulevard is taken. More spaces were needed and, for Bailey Boulevard, the only way to add spaces was to create diagonal parking.